We closed submissions for The Los Angeles Review this week, and now the flurry of contract-gathering, manuscript ordering, proofreading and spreadsheet cross-referencing (not to mention the mad dash to raise funds for our next print run) begins. We’re very proud of Issue 9 (which will come out just in time for AWP, on the heels of Issue 8–you’ll have plenty of LAR to keep you reading throughout this fall and winter).
So as I was getting ready to put LAR away for the day to try to sneak in some writing of my own, I decided to answer one last LAR-related email. I wish I hadn’t.
It was one of those emails I get from time to time, from some writer with a continent-sized chip on her shoulder, demanding to know why we don’t pay our authors huge chunks of change for their hard work. Now let me be clear: I have never gotten an email of this type from a contributor. It’s always some random writer who’s never even submitted work to us–just some angry Tom, Jane, or Suzy on a crusade. This email was even worse than most, because its writer suggested that LAR’s editors–and me, in particular–are pocketing money from sales of the magazine and sales of ad space, and are therefore robbing writers of their due. It would probably be a good idea for me to ignore their nastiness and insinuation, but this time I was just tired and annoyed enough to give her an education.
A short summary of my email back to her: if you’re looking for cash, you’ve picked the wrong world. Literary journals aren’t cash cows. In fact, I don’t know a single editor who hasn’t put money forth from his or her own pocket–to say nothing of countless hours of labor–in order to keep his or her magazine afloat. Do we think writers deserve to be paid? Of course–we look forward to a day when we have the resources to do so. But if you think you’re entitled to funds that would otherwise be spent keeping a magazine in print, you can take your greedy little mammon-worshiping self elsewhere. The last thing we need in the small press world is more people who want to take, take, take without giving back. Taking isn’t what art is all about.
Needless to say, I was in a bit of a bad-taste-in-my-mouth kind of mood when I headed out to Richard Hugo House here in Seattle in order to help out with The Novel, Live! It was jut the thing to turn my mood around.
Novelist Jennie Shortridge and her group, The Seattle 7 Writers, devised one of the most ambitious literary projects I’ve ever seen: 36 novelists are co-writing a book in 6 days in front of a live audience, all to raise funds for Seattle writers in the schools. The novelists take shifts of two hours each, building from one another’s work, with their words appearing live on screen (from now until the end of the event this weekend, you can watch the simulcast here: http://www.thenovellive.org/novel/live/).
My job last night was to keep a synopsis of the work being written in order to help bring the next novelist up to speed on the turns the plot had taken. When I got to the work station, I was surprised to find that the unassuming guy working away on the running synopsis was thriller-writer Robert Dugoni (a New York Times best-selling author). Here’s a guy with serious writing chops. A writer of his standing could be at home, feet up, drink in hand, pontificating about how great he is and how much he deserves to make for his writing. But instead, he was donating his time and considerable talents to help promote literacy in our city.
When I came on to write the synopsis, Robert took the stage (and took off his shoes) and wrote quite an impressive piece under time pressure. Robert laid down over 3,700 words in his 120-mintue time block, and they were damn good. He moved the plot around like he was a long-haul trucker, and he did it with such joy! It wasn’t for his own sake. It wasn’t to get paid. It was for the love of art and of sharing that love with kids in need.
That, folks, is what the writing world is about.
Robert Dugoni, my new writerly hero, working on The Novel Live: